Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tortoise Bento

It's Reptile Week over at Bento Blog Network! In honour of this (and because The Muffin just loves turtles and tortoises), I decided to make a Tortoise Bento for her lunch tomorrow:

The Muffin has about two thirds of a banana (with a tortoise sticker), a handful of grapes with some dried blueberries thrown in (and a tortoise pick), vanilla yoghurt with green heart sprinkles, and a Tortoise.

The tortoise is a salami sandwich with cheese head, legs and shell markings.

I was very pleased with my little tortoise, and a bit sad that I had to wrap him up, because it squooshed him a bit. But I just don't trust bread to stay edible overnight unless it is plastic-wrapped, and I definitely don't have time to make this sort of thing in the morning!

I hope The Muffin likes him as much as I do! You can check out all the other Reptiles here.

Oh, and I am also linking this to What's For Lunch Wednesday at BentoLunch.net.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday - A Tale Of Two Dinners

It's Muffin Tin Monday again! And indeed it was last week too, but I never got around to posting the pictures. So here goes:

Last Week: River Theme (as sprung on me at the last minute suggested by The Muffin)

You're going to need to engage your imagination for this one, folks.

Top Row: Cashew "stones"; Quiche "fish" (with pastry tail... I did warn you you'd need your imagination, right?); Marshmallow duck (which was, I suspect, the entire reason she came up with the "River Theme" in the first place).

Bottom Row: Banana & spinach "tree"; Round piece of quiche (representing picnics by the river); Pineapple "sand" with blueberry "balls to play with during the picnic".

Now before you say ANYTHING, I was not given complete creative control over this dinner - The Muffin came up with some of these ideas. I am Not Telling you which ones...

I did kind of like my tree though:

Probably more of a bush, really.

The After Shot:

She loved it, especially the marshmallow duck.

This Week: Dumplings

This is a dinner we all really enjoy. I regularly buy a variety of dumplings from our local Asian supermarket and keep them on hand in the freezer. Then when I don't have much time (or inclination) to cook dinner, we can fill our bamboo steamer up with dumplings, and in ten to fifteen minutes, dinner is served! This is much cheaper (and quicker, frankly) than buying takeaways. It's probably not a lot healthier, unfortunately, but hey - it's not like we have this for dinner every night. I also sometimes buy wonton wrappers and make my own wontons. This is a healthier option, as I can control what goes into them, but it obviously takes longer, so we do tend to buy quite a few pre-made ones. I'm hoping to make a lot more home-made ones soon!

Top Row: Pork & chive dumpling; Leek dumpling; Two jellybeans from her lolly stash.

Bottom Row: Chicken-filled steamed bun; Pork & chive dumpling; Ginger prawn dumpling.

The Misleading After Shot:

Misleading because a) she actually ate a lot more dumplings than in the first picture - we just kept refilling the cups until she'd had enough. And b) she wasn't keen on the steamed bun. This was the first time she had tried one of these, and she really only ate the filling out of half of it. You can see the discarded remains of that half, but what you can't see is the other (intact) half, which Husband ate.

To see what other kids had in their Muffin Tins this week, check out The Muffin Tin Mom's blog.
And if you're looking for a fun and yummy baking activity to do with your kids in the upcoming school holidays, you might like these Surprise Cookies!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Surprise! (It's A Cookie)

Way, way back in the dark ages, before there was Abby Cadabby, or Baby Bear - hey, even before there was Elmo (gasp!), there was a series of books called "The Sesame Street Library". Fifteen volumes of Sesame Street awesomeness, and I had them all. If you can still get hold of these, I highly recommend picking a set up for your child. Or, you know, your inner child.

One of the features of each volume (or most of them) was a recipe - sometimes it was something different, like Big Bird's Banana Bread, but usually it was a cookie recipe presented by Cookie Monster. The first volume contained a basic cookie dough recipe (see below), and the other volumes used this dough in various ways. I would pore over these recipes in Rapturous Contemplation of All The Possibilities.

The weird thing is, despite the huge amount of baking I did with my mother as a child, I do not remember ever having made any of those cookies!

Anyway, the other cool thing about those books is, I Still Have Them. Yep, the very same ones my mother bought for me in the late seventies. Actually, they belong to The Muffin now. And we decided we would make some of those cookies. After some perusal, we were most taken with the idea of the Surprise Cookies.

It's actually a very cool idea. You start with a basic cookie dough. Obviously Cookie Monster uses his very own recipe, and so did we. However I see no reason why you couldn't use your favourite sugar cookie dough, as long as it's fairly stable. Cookie Monster's dough is a bit tougher than my usual sugar cookie recipe, and I think this probably helps to keep these cookies in one piece once they are baked. Anyway, once you have your dough of choice, roll it out thinly and cut it into circles. Then add some kind of filling to one circle...

... and add another circle on top. Pinch around the edges (note my five-year-old hand model)....

... and bake! These are very easy, and a great fun cooking activity to do with kids. The trick is to do lots of different fillings, and give them no identifying marks...

So the fun part is, when you pick up a cookie, you don't know what it contains...

The peanut butter choc chip were my favourites...

This filling was lucky I didn't eat it before I put it in the cookies...


Another surprise favourite was the tinned apple filling. Everyone who tried these listed it in their top two. Which brings me to the only problem with these cookies...

When it's this much fun finding out what's inside, noone can stop at one!

Cookie Monster's Cookie Dough
(thanks to Sesame Street & The Childrens Television Workshop)

Ingredients (exactly as listed in the book)
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Modus Operandi (same as in the book, but abbreviated somewhat.)
Combine butter and sugar in a mixing bowl (the recipe says to use a fork. I used my mixer). Add eggs and vanilla and mix to combine. Add dry ingredients and mix to form a dough. Refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rainbow Hearts Cake

You may have seen this cake by Bakerella - it's just gorgeous, and I think the single pink heart is a stroke of genius.

It's also massive. The Muffin and I decided we would like to make our own smaller version for my mother's sixtieth birthday (Happy Birthday Mum!). And as a little nod to St Patrick's Day, we thought we'd embrace the rainbow...

Here is the back view (or, What It Would Look Like Without The Colours):

Inside the top tier was dark chocolate mudcake. Inside the bottom tier, the rainbow continued...

I was pretty happy with how this turned out. I'm still a little unsure about my use of gold cachous around the bottom though... I had some vague idea about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but to be honest by that time it was one in the morning, so I refuse to be held accountable for any decisions made at that point.

What do you think? Should I have used white ones?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday - Garden

Happy Muffin Tin Monday!

This week The Muffin requested a Garden theme for her tin:

Top Row: Carrot and cucumber birds; Yellow jube (from her loot bag stash).

Middle Row: Spanish chorizo rice; Frozen berries.

Bottom Row: Apple flower with small cracker biscuit centre; Spanish chorizo rice.

The Spanish chorizo rice was what Husband and I had for dinner, too. The Muffin chose this recipe from a selection of chorizo-based recipes I found on the internet. This recipe can be found here, and it was really yummy!

The After Shot:

The Muffin enjoyed the chorizo & rice dish, but (as usual) did not enjoy the cucumbers.

Check out what other kids ate today, over at The Muffin Tin Mom's blog!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall...

... who's got the fairest lunch of all?

The Muffin's class was studying the letter P this week, and had a Pirates & Princesses dress-up day as part of the P-related fun.

The Muffin decided to go as Snow White, so I offered to do her a Snow White themed bento. Then I got a little carried away...

Snow White is made of rice balls - a round white one with nori hair for the head, a bodice-shaped one with a teeny bit of blue food colouring, skinny white ones for arms, and a white skirt-shaped one with cheese laid on top. Her sleeves are thick pieces of cheese, which I attempted to draw on with a red food marker (these never work well for me on cheddar). Her eyes and mouth are nori, her cheeks are painted with a tiny bit of tomato sauce, and the bow in her hair is rice paper coloured in with red food marker. I filled a heart-shaped silicon cup with ham, for her to eat with the rice balls.

The Muffin also had an apple (you Just Can't have Snow White without an apple!), some grapes, and a piece of fairy bread with a cracker on top. I made the fairy bread with silver sprinkles, and pink and yellow ones around the edges (for the frame). I told The Muffin "It's supposed to look like a Mirror". She looked at it oddly, and said "It doesn't at all". Don't you just love five-year-old honesty? (Actually I can't say I blame her on this one.)

To be honest, this lunch did take kind of forever to make, and I wouldn't do this kind of thing every day. But it was fun, and The Muffin loved it.

I'm linking this up to What's For Lunch Wednesday over at BentoLunch.net - why not go and check out what other lucky kids got for lunch this week?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday - Pancakes!

If you've read much at all of this blog, you'll know I love to bake. And actually, I quite like all cooking - and I'm not bad at most of it, but baking's my real thing.

Husband does not cook at all. Except for pancakes.

He is a Pancake God, I kid you not. And I'm not talking about any shake 'n' bake nonsense - oh no, my man makes pancakes from scratch. And my pancakes are nowhere near as good as his. Which is not a euphemism. Anyway, so where I'm going with this is, it's a public holiday here today, so Husband made pancakes for lunch. While he was busy mixing, pouring and flipping, The Muffin and I organised all the toppings, and popped them into a muffin tin:

Top Row: Ham; Natural yoghurt; Bananas; Mixed berries.
Middle Row: Grated cheese; Bananas; Leftover roast chicken; Grated cheese.
Bottom Row: Grated cheese; Natural yoghurt; Tinned apple; Apricot jam.
Also: I defaced the first pancake out of the pan by cutting the word "Monday" out of it with alphabet cookie cutters. This was The Muffin's suggestion, and she enjoyed sorting through all the alphabet cutters and finding the correct letters, and then laying the pancake letters out on the tin in the correct order.

There's no After Shot this time, because obviously the three of us shared the toppings tin, so it wouldn't be indicative of what The Muffin actually ate. She topped her first one with ham and cheese, and then had me pop it under the griller for her to melt the cheese. Then she had one with apple, bananas, berries, apricot jam and yoghurt, all mixed together. She picked it up, folded it in half and ate it like a massive taco - it was hilarious. And then, she ate most of the "Monday" letters dipped in maple syrup. Piggy!

(And in case you're wondering, yes we do normally enforce Better Table Manners Than That - but with Muffin Tin Monday, we tend to relax a little and let her have some fun with it).

To see what other lucky kids got to eat this week, check out The Muffin Tin Mom's blog.

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